How To Be The Leader To Galvanize Your Team

November 12, 2018 – by Rob Howard

Courtney A. Seard is an executive performance coach and business strategist, and speaker with Live Nation SME division, with 20+ years working in business operations with startups, small businesses, nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies. As a certified master coach, certified trainer of Neuro-linguistics programming and Hypnosis, she has developed the current Leadership Track curricula for the United States of Women’s “Galvanize” program.

My foray into civics wasn’t planned. Politics wasn’t my thing; it was strictly business. As an executive performance coach and business strategist, I’m accustomed to being the “only”—woman, person of color, and most times both—in the room. My experience as an “only” led me to develop a training project for young girls in at-risk high schools, a “Women’s Leadership Development” program. Realizing how much I might have benefited from this sort of training as a young woman, I had to give back.

The mood in fall 2016 was exhilarating. These 17 and 18-year-old girls opening up about the upcoming election, the political process, and hopes for the future as females. They didn’t believe that “our” country would elect someone who expressed outwardly racist and sexist views.

“NO WAY. This is America, and it’s 2016!” they’d exclaim. “We’re about to have the first woman president,” with bursts of Beyoncé’s “Who Run the Word? …GIRLS!!” It was so empowering to watch these young women see opportunity, just within reach.

Then all that changed. The mood and tone shifted. And that shift has taken place among friends and clients, in the training room and business suites. Things feel different now.

Participants gather at Galvanize Florida in June 2018.

Participants gather at Galvanize Florida in June 2018. COURTESY OF COURTNEY SEARD

So how do you navigate in what seems to be a room full of landmine opinions and words that trigger? How do you lead when your expectations have been dashed? How do you lead when, at times, you are unsure?

Communication has become more combative in the current climate of incivility. There’s name-calling and use of adjectives designed to throw you off your game. For example, in the past, I’d be called “aggressive” and my blood would boil. If you don’t understand the dog whistle of calling a black woman aggressive, Google it.

I’m working on what triggers me. I’m responsible for how long I allow what hurts me to haunt me. Today, when called aggressive, I tend to respond with a chuckle and a “Why yes, I am aggressive about your results. I’m aggressive about helping you obtain the success you hired me for. What shocks me here is why you’re not as aggressive for your results and your outcomes as I am.”

That perspective shifts everything, and I once again shift the conversation back to the work. I am unable to control what people say or think. Policing the words, thoughts and the ideas of others is emotionally taxing and tiring. I prefer to allow those to truly communicate to me who they are. It’s a more effective strategy, for me.

55% of how we communicate is physiology: non-verbal communication and body language. Tonality is 38%, and only 7% of how we communicate is with words. So, why do we speak so much? It’s why messages conveyed online or via email and text are so often misconstrued. People receive messages based on their mood, not your intent.

So when you approach a situation, notice how are you feeling. Are you listening to understand or to respond? Do you enter with a preconceived notion of how things are, and how it’s going to be?

Courtney Seard delivers her program at Galvanize Chicago.

Courtney Seard delivers her program at Galvanize Chicago.COURTESY OF COURTNEY SEARD

Well, if you’re coming to a situation inflexible, then you’re going to get and receive inflexibly. When you’re emotionally charged or triggered or dead-set on seeing through your agenda without taking a breath or space to consider another point of view, how far do you get?

This applies in the political arena and in daily life. If you view everyone and everything as your enemy, if you use words that define them as such, you’ll constantly find yourself at war. Gaining the skills and having the courage to examine yourself and communicate differently are the keys to great leadership.

In my opinion, great leadership is more than how you guide or inspire a group of people to reach a common goal. It’s deeper and more personal. It’s about how you lead your life. How you recognize and respond to the obstacles you encounter or the barriers you or others place in your way. It’s taking the difficult steps to understand yourself, taking responsibility for your actions, and making the necessary changes, while thinking of others—exercising compassion, building a bridge, finding that common ground, and giving the benefit of the doubt.

What does it mean for you to be a leader? What are the thoughts, the intentions, behind how you express your views? How do you plan on using your position to make things better? Are you willing to stand for what you believe in when you’re the only one in the room or at the table thinking that way?

The Leadership Track for the United States of Women’s “Galvanize” program is designed to answer these essential leadership questions and more, providing communication skills and mental and emotional health tools to assist women navigate and thrive in today’s environment.

And I’ll present that track at Galvanize Pennsylvania on November 17 and Galvanize New Mexico December 1. For more information about Galvanize events or to register, go to